The quality of the content on a website is increasingly becoming the most important factor in terms of how it performs. Search engines scan websites for quality content, and end users are always looking for content that does a great job of addressing their concerns. The challenge in presenting content on a website is figuring out what works, what needs to be fine-tuned and what absolutely has to go.
The process of evaluating the worth of the existing content on a website is called a content audit. During a content audit, a website owner tries to identify what content is driving traffic and what might be creating problems. This approach requires gathering information from the site and making practical decisions about what to do. With a few key ideas in mind, your website audit can help you make sense of who is using your website and how you can do a better job of serving them.
If you have a small site, you can probably manually managed the list of pages that you need to review. But if you have a site with many pages or posts, it is useful to use an analytics package such as Google Analytics to obtain a list of page URLs, and start the audit from them.
There’s no substitute for hard data, and that means installing a solid analytics package on your site. Google Analytics is available for free, and it can easily be embedded into pages in order to give you a better idea of how users are interacting with your website. Likewise, Google’s Webmaster Toolsservice allows you to check your site for warnings about configuration errors and other issues, as well as malware notifications, that might also be creating SEO problems on your site. By combining the information from these packages, you’ll have a stronger sense of where visitors are coming from and how long they’re staying on your site.
Basic content SEO issues
If you have not conducted an audit recently or updated the SEO work on a site, then you should take the time to explore older pages and check how they’ve been built. The SEO standards that the big search engines use are well-established by now, and you should check for obvious failures. For example, if after reading a few key pages on your website, it becomes clear that whoever wrote them was trying to cram search keywords into the pages, then you need to start thinking about how you can undo those errors. In most cases, rewriting pages in order to make them more readable and clear will be enough, but in some cases it may be wiser to delete the page and start fresh.
You’ll also want to scan pages for basic SEO issues. This includes proper use of header tags and meta descriptions. If you see during an audit that these are not properly formatted on your pages, then you may wish to rewrite those pages in order to conform to current content SEO standards.
Establishing standards based on data
One easy way to evaluate the worth of a page is to check how much traffic it has been generating over the last 18 months. Even if a page was previously successful and popular, it can become outdated and ultimately undermine the content SEO value of your site. A good rule of thumb is that if a page has not garnered an average of 100 page views a month, then you should consider deleting it. Since the search engines like fresh content, this may have the net effect of improving the overall rankings of a site.
Another standard to apply is the total number of inbound links to a page. If other websites aren’t inclined to link to a page, you should consider deleting it. What is a fair number of links for a page? If in 18 months a page hasn’t developed at least 20 links, then that page may need to be deleted.
It’s also important to note what is performing well. If a page is giving rise to inbound links and is generating traffic, you want to note what was done right on that page in order to better replicate those results elsewhere on your website. Major websites have built successful business models based entirely on tailoring their content to what works for their visitors.
Social media sites, such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are becoming bigger drivers of traffic than they’ve ever been before, and it’s a good idea to include questions about your social media presence in any content audit. A website like SharedCount can quickly tell you how well your website is performing on social media. You can examine what pages are drawing attention, and you can build your future content around the strengths of these more popular pages.
If you’re having difficulty attracting traffic from social media users, there are ways to address those problems. First, if you don’t already have a social media presence, get started! There’s no need to go overboard, but most sites should at least have a Twitter and a Facebook account. Once you have those in place, you need to start producing social media posts that are suited to those environments. That means, for example, that you ought to work on developing smaller copy for tweets. You should also start using URL shorteners, such as t.co or goo.gl or bit.ly in order to conserve the number of characters used for each tweet. Twitter will automatically shorten URLs in tweets for you, but if you use a third-party shortener such as bit.ly, you can get analytics for each URL, such as the number of times it was clicked.
Pulling it all together
The major analytics programs allow you to export data to spreadsheet formats, and you can pull this information into Microsoft Excel or a Google spreadsheet in order to better appreciate what’s going on. These spreadsheets offer a lot of information, such as the length of meta descriptions, what the titles of pages are and how many words are on each page. By cross-referencing the Google Analytics data with the information from SharedCount, you can see what pages are driving the interest of your website’s visitors.
Once you have all the information in front of you, you may proceed with your audit and begin to address any concerns that emerge. You can also start developing a strategy that will guide the production of your future content. With a more data-driven approach, you can correct problems and begin building a website that both search engines and visitors will love.